Thursday, July 13, 2006


Speed, boats, and water!

Next weekend (July 22nd. and 23rd.) South Shields' Sandhaven Beach will host the second round of the Honda Formula 4-stroke Powerboat Series. Spectators will be able to see high paced fast and furious action as competitors for races three and four battle it out on the high seas. Last year we hosted a round of the ZapCats Championship, now we are going bigger and faster!

Metro radio DJ Wayne is competing in the event he is "driving" for H17 Emap Radio Racing.

The Tyneside Grand Prix forms part of Newcastle-Gateshead's programme of festivals and events for this year.

Stella Hall, creative director at the NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said:
"It's quite a coup to bring this world-class sporting championship to the North East for the first time.

"Free for all the family, this fast-paced, high-profile event offers a spectacular and exciting day out for spectators.

"It's yet another great example of our capacity to stage large-scale, world-class events in all cultural spheres, from art and music to dance and sport."

Coun Jim Sewell, lead member for culture and wellbeing at South Tyneside Council, said:

"We are thrilled the Honda powerboat championship is coming to South Tyneside for the very first time.

"This event will be an exciting enhancement to our summer festival line-up for that weekend, which includes a free open-air concert featuring Midge Ure, China Crisis and Altered Images. I encourage everyone to come along and enjoy all of the free family entertainment on offer."

The event will conjure up an image of speed, teamwork, precision engineering, and power in South Tyneside, which is why I mention it. This image is a falsehood as far as the recent record of our Council in dealing with email enquiries is concerned.

For the past twelve months I have been pressing the Council, along with a riverside user from Sedgefield to re-open the pedestrian access gate at Redhead's Landing in Commercial Road, South Shields. It is one of only two public access points to the River Tyne in South Shields, and along with our MP David Miliband we sought to have the gate open in time for the Tall Ships Race last year, it was an obvious vantage point for photographers.

For generations people of South Shields have been able to get to the riverside at Redhead's Landing, you could launch a boat there, you could land a boat there speedily (if for instance there was an emergency and a boatman was injured), you could paint there, you could watch wading birds there, you could fish from there, you could just watch the life of the river and passing boats if that was what took your fancy. However, some Council official in the Legal Services department took the decision to have the pedestrian access gate locked on the grounds of Health and Safety after seeing an amount of rubbish and debris there. Although the public had enjoyed access to the landing for many years after a planning condition attached some time ago, they now deem that the planning condition is no longer valid and are not prepared to enforce it any longer.

Over the past twelve months, other than a brief discussion at the Riverside Community Area Forum, the issue has not been in front of any Council Committee, the land is not owned by the Council, and to date they have still not found out who does own it, it is not listed on the Definitive Map of Public Rights of Way, hence the application from the gentleman in Sedgefield. No real speedy resolution on the horizon here then.

To try and find out how the application was going I emailed the Chief Executive of South Tyneside Council, Irene Lucas, on the 19th. May this year asking when the application to have Redhead's Landing added to the Definitive Map would be considered, who would be responsible for considering it, and which committee would be dealing with the matter. My email has been batted about for the past month between Irene's staff and Legal Services, yet to date NOBODY has been willing to send a reply to me! It seems that e-government, websites, e-services etc. just don't work if you ask the wrong sort of questions from the right sort of people.

Similarly, I have emailed the Chief Executive of South Tyneside Homes and Cllr. Michael Clare asking how many tenents have been evicted for anti-social or criminal behaviour in the past two years, how many are in the process of being evicted, and how many are being considered for eviction. This followed the concerns expressed at another Community Area Forum by Inspector Simon Charlton of Northumbria Police. Reluctantly I have to report that these emails too have been left unanswered!

So as far as speed, power, and water goes the image created by South Tyneside Council will not match that provided by next weekend's event. Their record is slow, non-commital and dismal to say the least.

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